In a way, a horror film, “Tape” by Deborah Kampmeier is a terrible feminist leaflet, a sinister P.S.A. on predation in casting and the subjugation of women. Directed with references to the culture of rape and objectification – as well as to the infidels of entertainment Roman Polanski and Bill Cosby – the script is stuffy, almost comical, on the nose. “Tape”, in short, is a terrible film about terrible behavior.
This behavior is not limited to the villain of the film, a charismatic casting director named Lux (Tarek Bishara). It is also displayed by the putative heroine, Rosa (Annarosa Mudd), whom we meet in her bathroom as she shaves her head, pierces her tongue and slices her wrists. She does not try to commit suicide: she expresses her brotherhood with Lavinia raped in “Titus Andronicus” by Shakespeare, whose bloody image is stuck on the opening credits of the film. Rosa, too, was raped, Lux was her attacker, and now she plans to expose her crimes.
Dressed in all black, beret and sunglasses shouting “beatnik avenger”, Rosa, wearing hidden recording equipment, heads for an audition where Lux focuses on Pearl (Isabelle Fuhrman), a victim of textbooks. Young, naive and hopeful, Pearl is already bulimic and heartbreaking.
“I’ll do whatever it takes,” she said to someone on a sobbing call, bemoaning the difficulty of finding an acting job. Outside her window – and for most of the film – Rosa hides and listens, later spying on Pearl and Lux via a tablet as he forces the expert to make a sex scene. Regardless of the importance of the themes, watching a character watching others is terribly oppressive. Like the cliché environment of harassment that Kampmeier (who specializes in difficult examinations of women’s sexual vulnerability) built around them. For Rosa, a stroll on a New York street is a gauntlet of workers who catapellent and exhibitions of women’s magazines.
Arriving with the full weight of #MeToo providing both an artistic anchor and a critical shield, “Tape”, based on real events, fuses masochism and exorcism in a portrait of deep psychological pain. Joyful female voices adorn the soundtrack, and the crisp, clear images of Valentina Caniglia light up the light in the dark corners. Strong performances don’t do much to enlighten characters whose actions – especially in the cathartic restaurant finale – may seem vigorously artificial: it’s hard to care about people who are seen only through the lens of violence , simple vehicles for a conference on gender power imbalance. As a result, neither Rosa’s emotional agony nor Lux’s despicable sins reach the resonance they deserve and that the filmmakers clearly intend.
Unclassified. Duration: 1 hour 38 minutes. Buy tickets for a virtual screening at tapevirtualpremiere.com.